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The life and times of a home schooling mom of se7en + 1.

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How To Keep Se7en + 1 Kids Busy All Day…

February 17th, 2010 · 24 Comments

I am often asked how on earth I keep my kids busy all day, but seriously I don’t!!! I don’t keep a list of rainy day activities… I don’t keep a list of any activities!!! I don’t have a boredom jar full of ideas, in fact I don’t seem to have many sufferers from boredom. Turns out we have spots around our home where our kids can do what they need to do. I never carefully planned it this way and I didn’t read a book about keeping kids entertained. Rather, it evolved as our kids grew and so their horizons needed to expand too. It turns out that we have areas of opportunity for them to explore and play and just be, without worrying about if it will count towards their college credits or not.

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So much of our kids lives are scheduled and programmed. They seem to be glued to a hidden agenda… Not their hidden agenda and not our hidden agenda but rather the “Not So Hidden Agenda” of our “Gotta Get Ahead” culture. Everything has to be educational, aggressively so!!! I must say I am daunted and I understand why many children are unable to play. Just look at their play materials, everything has to be either electronic or organic… No plonking on kitchen pots to make music anymore – either it has to be some sort of electronic keyboard gadget device thing or a wooden drum from a sustainable forest attached to an organic felt mouth organ… Everything is so extreme!!!!

Here are se7en simple spots from around our home:

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  1. Fort Materials: A pile of blankets and cushions, because they must. I don’t need to build a fort out of blankets, I have no desire to either!!!. Sometimes a fort is part of an elaborate game and sometimes it is what it is… a blanket pegged to the table. Either way I don’t step in and offer to elaborate or provide props… I like them to do it themselves and to be as elaborate or as plain as they like.
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  3. Snack Attacks: We have a fruit bowl on our kitchen counter. Sometimes an apple up a tree is a snack and sometimes everybody has to be involved and a major fruit chopping takes place. They don’t need to have lethal weapons to chop up fruit, the knife required to chop a banana is safe enough even for a three year old who has been taught how to handle it.
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  5. Books, and lots of them: We have a heap of books and an ever growing library of brilliant school books. Apart from that I keep a load of library books to be browsed and read and read and read. The library books are chosen just because – not especially educational just fun and whatever they want to read.
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  7. Paper and markers and crayons and scissors and tape: I used to be a bit precious – when I had one child!!! And the markers were kept up on a shelf and brought down for arty moments… but with eight I would be unpacking all day!!! It is all there and available for them to draw and create with all day… not to mention a stack of scrap paper.
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  9. Arts and Crafts: These sort of materials are different to their regular crayons and markers and things. In this category are paints and glues and anything they want from the recycling bag. And it is all recycling. I stopped buying craft materials when I started blogging in an effort to use up all the bits and pieces we had lying around the house. We are still going strong. The only things I have to buy are tape (masking tape, sticky tape whatever!!!), string and just recently I bought a roll of florists wire (it is very bendy and useful for all manner of things!!!).
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  11. Natural Materials: We have a collection of natural goodies, gleaned from outings and we keep them in our nature garden. Bark for carving, shells for threading. We don’t have a massive garden with rolling lawns, we do have a small garden with lots of nooks and crannies. This really is enough to keep their curiosity alive!!!
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  13. Cleaning: Kids love cleaning. And they love cleaning with real tools. The first thing my kids do with a toy broom is use it for sword fights, they have never done that with a real broom. I keep a mop in our yard and a couple of rags under the sink. My younger kids especially love a wet cloth to wipe walls and they spend hours cleaning the sink.

As I wrote this post I realized that the reason all this freedom works is that there is a designated area for each of their activities. I don’t have crayons trailing throughout the house, neither do I have small children mopping the couch. Everything in its place and there isn’t a multitude of overwhelming choice in each of these areas – educational toys and materials are one thing and just plain simple fun is quite another.

I guess what I am trying to instill in my kids is a sense of exploration and curiosity and to be busy in a useful way. Rather than the expectation that I, or life in general, will provide them with things to do.

This Post was hammered out as part of The Thirty Minute Mom’s Challenge at Steady Mom. The photographs were taken from my flickr pool, so didn’t need load up time.

I popped this post onto the Works For Me Wednesday Site – go and have a look there for all sorts of tips on absolutely anything.

Please click through have a look at our Fabulous Fun South African GiveAway this week.

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Tags: Kids · Thoughtful Thursdays

24 responses so far ↓

  • 1 heidi @ wonder woman wannabe // Feb 17, 2010 at 4:37 am

    This is great!

    We have many of the same ‘staple’ activities going on at our house. I liked your idea of opening up the recycle box for crafting options!

    We are regulars at our library – it’s amazing the activities my eldest will come up with wanting to explore by virtue of something we’ve read too!

  • 2 Stina // Feb 17, 2010 at 5:20 am

    I love the ‘less is more’ approach….because it works! When my children are not overwhelmed by their toy choices, they actually play with their toys…ALL of them! So we try to keep those in check. Likewise, when I dont have tons of stuff filling up my house…the things we do have get used and there isnt so much that it is overwhelming to clean.

    Good advice! Also…I LOVE the world map made out of bark. Amazingly creative!

  • 3 KIMBO1, SL Forums // Feb 17, 2010 at 5:44 am

    What creat “centers!” I think I should set up something like these!

  • 4 S // Feb 17, 2010 at 8:05 am

    When I was a child, the word ‘bored’ was not allowed to be used in our home! And in those days there was no TV or computer for us to occupy our days with! My children can’t even imagine this scenario!! How would most children cope (not to mention their parents) these days without a TV, computer or the like!

  • 5 se7en // Feb 17, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Hi H, Isn’t reading great – not only does it take you places you never dreamed of but when you “get back” you are inspired to do stuff!!! Lots of my kids projects are direct results of reading a great book. Have a great week!!!

  • 6 se7en // Feb 17, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Hi S, I love the map too!!! When we had two kids they had so many toys it was a daily minefield… we slowly whittled them away and we are reduced to a couple of classics: Lego, duplo and so on… My kids have grown in leaps and bounds and they aren’t spending their entire lives sorting, packing and tidying… definitely less is more!!!! Hope you have a good week!!!

  • 7 se7en // Feb 17, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Hi K, It really has worked for us to have different “activities” in different spots, and really these came about as a natural growth of our kids and their needs… funny how things often just turn out right!!! Have a great day!!!

  • 8 se7en // Feb 17, 2010 at 8:23 am

    S you are so right… We just don’t have time for tv!!! I am always in awe of people that have a couple of hours everyday free to watch tv!!! And my kids would never have the time to read, draw and all those things that are vital to their lives!!! hope you have a good week!!!

  • 9 Susan // Feb 17, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Great post. Our house is very similar.

    I realized yesterday that for the first time ever I am actually out of recycled paper in my art paper drawer:)

    Ditto also on only keeping classic toys- but for us it’s a never ending process of continual culling of toy clutter. I think the toys breed at night.

  • 10 Linda B // Feb 17, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    My 2 year old is vacuuming as I type this. He LOVES the vacuum!

  • 11 Jenni @ My Web of Life // Feb 17, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    I couldn’t help giggling at a ‘wooden drum from a sustainable forest attached to an organic felt mouth organ’. We really do tend to go to extremes, don’t we?

    We also have little corners around the house that we call nooks. When our kids start milling around or begin squabbling, they are often encouraged to ‘go find a nook’. Our yard is also small but has a very Secret Garden feel to it which we all love.

    I have been struggling with balance lately and have recently come around to the idea of cleaning as part of play time rather than a chore. I think I need to change my own mindset about cleaning first to truly turn it around to a fun activity.

    Thanks for a really helpful post!

  • 12 se7en // Feb 17, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Hi J, We really did swop comments didn’t we!!! I am thinking a whole lot of getting through our “to-do” lists is that we just dread things that aren’t actually so bad when we get round to it!!! I have been working through mine and we have had such fun with things I have been putting off for years – literally!!! Madness I know!!! I think you are right there is a whole lot to be said for attitude!!! Hope you have a great week!!!!

  • 13 se7en // Feb 18, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Hi S, I went on a mad declutter mission when I started blogging… blog material and all that!!! And discovered that we had to get rid of so many that now I really am loathe to buy anything… the only toys coming in are really from grannies. My kids know if it doesn’t fit in to the scheme of toys they may keep it with their treasures but the space is limited… new treasures in means old treasures out. I used to think I had to sneak things by them but I find they are much better at sorting and donating than I ever would be!!! I think our paper drawer would empty out if we had your winter!!! And I love your cringe test post!!! I do exactly that… Call a name and wait to hear: “how can I help you?”, “Yes, mam” … nothing!!! you are right it is all about stealth!!!

  • 14 se7en // Feb 18, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Hi L, Aren’t kids the best… totally willing and eager to help!!! We just don’t always want to be helped!!! You have a great day!!!

  • 15 Lindi Paterson // Feb 18, 2010 at 11:23 am

    It was so awesome finding your fantastic blog through Whip-up!
    I am also a South African, and haven’t come across many of us here in blogland!
    Your blog is so informative and I love some of the local links you’ve posted.
    Thanks for a wonderful local blog!
    Have a wonderfully sunny day, Lindi

  • 16 Lindi Paterson // Feb 18, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Oh, I am putting your button up at my blog!

  • 17 se7en // Feb 18, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Hi L, So nice to meet you!!! Isn’t whip-up brilliant!!! I am so glad you stopped by and thanks so much for using our button that is just too kind!!! You have the sweetest little girl… and what we wouldn’t do for your train trip!!!! Have a great day!!!

  • 18 jen@odbt // Feb 18, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    All great ideas! You need to write a separate post on the cleaning thing. How did your kids get to love cleaning?

  • 19 se7en // Feb 18, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Hi J, I really just assumed all kids loved cleaning – don’t they!!! I did write a series on chores… and you can have a look at it here!!! Have a good week – see you next week on 30 minutes!!!

  • 20 Jennifer // Feb 18, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    Thanks great post!!!I think we’re naturally developing those areas in our home as well. I think it does come from being organized from the start. My 3 year old son knows things belong in their place and he puts them back because that’s all he’s known.

    It does seem like all children love to clean but you’re so right they want to use the same equipment as their parents. I try to make an effort to let my son “clean” even when it might take longer or make more of a mess for me because in the long run it will pay off.

  • 21 se7en // Feb 19, 2010 at 1:41 am

    Hi J, You are right – it does pay off in the long run!!! It takes a little longer to let them do a job but I make sure they get it right rather than going behind their backs and doing it for them because now I can leave my older kids doing jobs and I can know that they are doing them properly. I hope you have a good week!!!

  • 22 Nina // Feb 19, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    great ideas. as I was reading I was thinking my son and I have kinda developed these areas without intention. the den’s couch is his favorite fort area – it has a blanket on it to keep it clean and almost daily this gets pushed around into some area for use then the pillows (this couch has tons of pillows), I keep the crayons and markers in one container with paper and coloring books, in the living room – he also loves cleaning and has his very own little vacuum…I’m going to get a fruit bowl for his table (he has a little table of his own). thanks for the suggestions.

  • 23 se7en // Feb 19, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Hi N, Sometimes it is so goos to stop and realize how much we are doing right!!! I love the fruit bowl idea – his own little spot!!! Lovely!!!! Hope you guys have a fabulous weekend!!

  • 24 Se7en's Fabulous Friday Fun #210... - se7en // Feb 16, 2014 at 2:40 am

    […] 2010: How to Keep Se7en + 1 Kids Busy All Day… […]

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